The first young Roosevelt to serve was Ethel Roosevelt Derby (1891-1977), who had trained as a nurse. She married Dr. Richard Derby, a surgeon, in 1913. In 1915 both of the Derbys went to France as a part of the Red Cross Mission of Mercy. Both were assigned to the American Ambulance Hospital in Paris, where they remained until 1917, when they returned to the U.S. because Ethel was pregnant. Although her nursing career was over, Ethel was very active with the Red Cross, eventually earning a sixty year service pin.
Theodore Roosevelt III MoH DSC (1887-1944), always known as Ted Jr., graduated from Harvard in 1909. He began a career in banking, and in 1915 he completed the Plattsburg Officer Course, graduating with distinction. After the war started, he was commissioned as a Major and, through the intervention of his father, was one of the first non-regular army officers to go to France. He was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, was in action at Cantigny and gassed and wounded at Soissons. Later he was promoted to Lt. Colonel, given the 26th Infantry Regiment and led them in the Meuse-Argonne. France made him a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur. Post-war he was one of the founders of the American Legion. He maintained his commission in the Army Reserve, completing the Infantry Officer’s Basic and Advanced courses and the Command and General Staff College. He was also a NY Assemblyman, an Assistant Secretary of the Navy, lost a race for Governor of NY in 1924, was appointed the Governor of Puerto Rico and then the Governor-General of the Philippines. Promoted to Colonel, in April 1941 he was again given the command of the 26th Infantry Regiment. As a Brig. General he became the second-in-command of the 4th Infantry Division, and he landed with them at Utah Beach on D-Day. At 56 he was the oldest man on the beach and the only general to land by sea. He played a big part in the success of the landing and was later awarded the Medal of Honor. He died of a heart attack on July 12th, 1944.
Kermit Roosevelt MC (1889-1943) graduated from Harvard in 1912. He accompanied his father on all of his months-long exploration safaris, including the ill-fated trip to the Amazon. He had also completed the Plattsburg course, and although offered a US commission he opted for quicker action and obtained an appointment as a Captain (Hon.) in the British Royal Army. He was sent to Mesopotamia in August 1917, where he spent his time in the rear managing a fleet of Model T Fords. He resigned in April 1918 and was commissioned a Captain in the 7th Field Artillery of his brother’s 1st Division. In 1939 he re-joined the British Army as a 2nd Lieut. through the personal intervention of Winston Churchill. He served in Norway but was discharged in May 1941 due to a recurrence of malaria.
After his return to the US he eventually resumed his commission in the US Army and was assigned to Ft. Richardson, AK where he died in 1943 by suicide.
Archibald Roosevelt (1894-1979) graduated from Harvard in 1917. Having also graduated from the Plattsburg course in 1915, he immediately took his commission in the Army and was also assigned to the 1st Infantry Division. He suffered a severe knee wound and was discharged as a Captain in 1918, receiving two Silver Stars.
In early 1943 he was returned to active duty with the rank of Lt. Colonel. In the New Guinea campaign he commanded a battalion of the 162nd Infantry, 41st Division, serving under Australian command. In July he was wounded in the same knee, making him perhaps the only U.S. soldier ever to receive a full disability twice and for essentially the same injury.
Quentin Roosevelt (1897-1918) left Harvard in 1917 after two years. Having squeaked through the Plattsburg course in 1915, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the1st Reserve Aero Squadron, US Army Signal Corps. He learned to fly at Mineola, NY and eventually made it to France as a supply officer, helping to set up the US training school at Issoudun. In July he was assigned to the 95th Squadron. Flying a Nieuport 28, he completed only nine sorties, lasting 19 days at the Front. Read more here.
Quentin and Ted Jr. are buried side by side at the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy, the only instance of a WW1 burial in an ABMC WW2 cemetery.
Their father had his own plans to serve – another story for another time.
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